We’ve been working with states across the country to help them support student health and wellness under the new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). One great opportunity that ESSA provides for building healthier schools is called Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, which can be a way for states and districts to get more funding for health and wellness initiatives.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been pondering a new use for those funds: purchasing guns.
We strongly disagree with this plan. While there haven’t been any studies on the effects of arming teachers in schools, plenty of research shows that more guns generally lead to more gun violence. And gun violence has impacts far beyond the immediate victims; it creates a wave of fear, anxiety and trauma in schools across the country.
Using funds from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program to bring more guns to school would go against the intent of the law. These funds could (and should) instead be used to address trauma with behavioral and mental health services, evidence-based drug and violence prevention programs; programs that support a healthy, active lifestyle; and mentoring and school counseling for children at risk of academic failure, dropping out of school or delinquency.
Because the grant program does not explicitly prohibit the use of its funds to purchase weapons, the Education Secretary could approve any state or district plan requesting to use the money to purchase guns. Or she could issue a simple guidance allowing the funds to be used to purchase guns.
So far, a majority of teachers have opposed adding more guns to schools. Gallup poll from March shows that 78 percent of teachers are opposed to teachers or school staff carrying guns in schools. And 58 percent of those teachers say carrying guns in schools would make schools less safe.
We believe that a school’s best response to gun violence is making sure it is providing its students with a safe and healthy school environment.